The Evening Blues - 3-11-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas barrelhouse piano player Robert Shaw. Enjoy!
Robert Shaw - The Ma Grinder
"We'll know that our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."
-- CIA Director William Casey
News and Opinion
This is absolutely worth a full read. Glenn Greenwald lays out the presstitute state media of the U.S. without a lily.
NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda
Every major U.S. war of the last several decades has begun the same way: the U.S. Government fabricates an inflammatory, emotionally provocative lie which large U.S. media outlets uncritically treat as truth while refusing at air questioning or dissent, thus inflaming primal anger against the country the U.S. wants to attack. That’s how we got the Vietnam War (North Vietnam attacks U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin); the Gulf War (Saddam ripped babies from incubators); and, of course, the war in Iraq (Saddam had WMDs and formed an alliance with Al Qaeda). This was exactly the tactic used on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those U.S. officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. U.S. officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces.
As it always does – as it always has done from its inception when Wolf Blitzer embedded with U.S. troops – CNN led the way in not just spreading these government lies but independently purporting to vouch for their truth. On February 24, CNN told the world what we all now know is an absolute lie: that “a CNN team saw incendiary devices from police on the Venezuelan side of the border ignite the trucks,” though it generously added that “the network’s journalists are unsure if the trucks were burned on purpose.” Other media outlets endorsed the lie while at least avoiding what CNN did by personally vouching for it. ... That lie – supported by incredibly powerful video images – changed everything. Ever since, that Maduro burned trucks filled with humanitarian aid was repeated over and over as proven fact on U.S. news outlets. Immediately after it was claimed, politicians who had been silent on the issue of Venezuela or even reluctant to support regime change began issuing statements now supportive of it. U.S. news stars and think tank luminaries who lack even a single critical brain cell when it comes to war-provoking claims from U.S. officials took a leading role in beating the war drums without spending even a single second to ask whether what they were being told were true.
... Everything the New York Times so proudly reported last night has been known for weeks, and was already reported in great detail, using extensive evidence, by a large number of people. But because those people are generally skeptical of the U.S. Government’s claims and critical of its foreign policy, they were ignored and mocked and are generally barred from appearing on television, while the liars from the U.S. Government and their allies in the corporate media were, as usual, given a platform to spread their lies without any challenge or dissent, just like the manual for how to maintain State TV intructs.
Indeed, none of the people questioning the original claim about the burning trucks, or citing this evidence to argue that the U.S. Government and its Venezuelan ally Guaidó were lying, ever made it onto national television to present their dissent. They weren’t allowed on. To the extent they were acknowledged at all, it was to defame them as Maduro apologists – for telling the truth – just as those who tried to combat the propaganda of 2002 and 2003 were smeared as being pro-Saddam. Only Rubio, Bolton, Pompeo, and various other U.S. officials were permitted to spread their lies without any challenge.
Who would have thought it wasn't the police 200m+ away who somehow burned the trucks with tear gas but the demonstrators throwing flaming firebombs right beside them!!?
— Alan MacLeod (@AlanRMacLeod) March 10, 2019
The Senate chambers ring with the voices of small men drunk on power:
U.S. senators on Thursday delivered a message of hope and solidarity to the Venezuelan people and a sharp warning to those backing embattled leader Nicholas Maduro both inside the collapsing South American country and in the broader international community.
"To those in Venezuela: Your fight for freedom and restoration of democracy is our fight, and the free world has not and will not forget you," said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. "We [the United States] will be [focused] on this as long as it takes."
The full committee's top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, had blunt words for loyalists of Maduro's socialist regime in Caracas. "If you want a future in Venezuela, and if you want a future free of U.S. sanctions that will follow you anywhere in the world, then you must recognize the legitimate interim president, Juan Guaido, and you must not have blood on your hands," he said, then paused and repeated: "You must not have blood on your hands."
As for Cuba, Russia and other nations backing Maduro, Menendez added, "Whatever investments you made in Maduro, you're not going to get them back under a failed state. Your own interest is in allowing a democratic process to take place that can restore Venezuela to its full vitality." ...
Rubio noted the oil-rich country's economic disintegration, accompanied by extreme hunger and privation as well as the exodus of millions of Venezuelans to neighboring countries, calling the situation "a regional catastrophe of epic proportions" and "a cataclysmic crisis."
With international aid shipments blocked at ports of entry by Maduro's army, Rubio predicted, "Venezuela is going to enter a period of suffering no nation in our hemisphere has confronted in modern history."
This is amazing: buried deep in this NYT article is a sentence indicating the Trump economic sanctions are a major cause of the deadly blackout in Venezuela, contradicting the rest of the article. No one has noticed; this should have been the main story: https://t.co/KGDZ4eI17g pic.twitter.com/DYhODSK737
— Mark Weisbrot (@MarkWeisbrot) March 10, 2019
Worth a full read, here are a few excerpts:
On Thursday afternoon local time the Guri Dam system failed:
Urgent: Network measurements show extraordinary nationwide impact as #Venezuela is knocked offline amid power outages from 8:55 PM UTC (4:55 PM VET); incident ongoing #7Mar #SinLuzhttps://t.co/W3eqPWQUPz pic.twitter.com/PkLgQfm0B4
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) March 7, 2019
The blackout affected 18 out of 23 states in Venezuela with some 25 million people. It took 24 hours for some power to come back. It would have taken another day or two for the network to again reach full capacity.
But today another total outage happened:
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) March 9, 2019
The graph shows a total of three outages over now three days.
When the first outage happened U.S. Senator Marco Rubio eagerly mocked the government of Venezuela. He also mentioned that some backup generators failed:
ALERT: Reports of a complete power outage all across #Venezuela at this moment.
18 of 23 states & the capital district are currently facing complete blackouts.
Main airport also without power & backup generators have failed.
#MaduroRegime is a complete disaster.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 7, 2019
After the first outage the government of Venezuela said that it was caused by a cyberattack on the automated control system but gave no further details:
Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said Maduro's government planned to bring "proof" of US involvement in the blackout to a UN Human Rights envoy who is set to visit the country in the coming days.
Rodriguez pointed to the Rubio tweet:
'How did Marco Rubio know that backup generators had failed? At that time, no one knew that,' the Bolivarian government official asked.
... It is quite possible that the U.S. is causing the outages in Venezuela's network. The second total outage yesterday and the third today could be explained by a malware hidden within the control system of the whole network or in some important side components. It took the Iranian government months to find the malware that again and again crashed its uranium centrifuges. Simply restarting the control systems did not help. The U.S. is well know for cyberattacks as well as for attacks on electricity networks. In 2012 it knocked Syria off the internet when it 'bricked' the central router in Syria while attempting to install malware. In 2015 it systematically bombed Syria's power plants.
Marco Rubio loves to talk, but doesn't always get his facts just exactly right. Perhaps he didn't understand exactly what the CIA agent was whispering in his ear:
Senator @marcorubio, an important transformer exploded in Bolívar and that, in part, again collapsed the Venezuelan Electric System; however it was not in a dam, much less german.
My name is Germán Dam, I am one of the journalists who published the information.
— Germán Dam (@GEDV86) March 9, 2019
I will cite only a single statistic: 6,345 (and counting). That describes the war’s duration — the number of days that the United States has been attempting, without success, to impose its will on Afghanistan. That number, I submit, constitutes a definitive judgment on recent US national security policy. ... It now becomes increasingly clear that the official rationale for initiating the Afghanistan War was bogus from the very outset. When United States and allied forces invaded Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, their purpose was to overthrow the Taliban and therefore demonstrate the price to be paid for harboring radical groups plotting terrorist attacks against the United States. To endow this undertaking with a simulacrum of moral purpose, the war’s proponents insisted that the United States would also liberate the Afghan people from oppression and confer on them all the benefits of Western-style liberal democracy, not least of all by guaranteeing the rights of women.
As it happened, toppling the Taliban government in Kabul proved surprisingly — and deceptively — easy. Everything since has turned out to be hard. Worst of all, Taliban forces have not only continued to resist but seemingly gain in strength the longer the war drags on. They refuse to be beaten. US commanders spin the current situation as a stalemate. Others might describe it as defeat by increments. And just about nobody thinks that another six thousand days of trying will produce a more favorable outcome.
So today, nearly 18 years after the war began, US officials are quietly engaged in negotiating with the enemy to end it. The terms of the prospective “peace” deal can be simply stated: If Taliban leaders promise not to allow Afghanistan to become a haven for anti-American terrorists, US forces will withdraw, leaving it to Afghans — including the Taliban — to determine their future. If this deal goes through, few will mistake the results for peace. Instead, the war that the United States initiated in 2001 will almost certainly continue, albeit on terms unfavorable to the government in Kabul.
The similarities with the agreement negotiated between Washington and Hanoi ending the Vietnam War back in the 1970s are difficult to overlook. Back then, the Saigon government was not allowed any meaningful role in the secret talks between its enemy and its ostensible ally. Today likewise, the government in Kabul watches from the sidelines. Such parallels suggest that the present Afghan government may well suffer the same sorry fate that befell the South Vietnamese government. President Richard Nixon called it “peace with honor.” It was instead abandonment devoid of honor. It’s a risky proposition to become an American client state.
Glenn Greenwald: Chelsea Manning’s Refusal to Testify Against WikiLeaks Will Help Save Press Freedom
“This new Cold War [is] more dangerous than the preceding Cold War,” professor Stephen Cohen tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” ... Joining the two is Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, to discuss the neo-McCarthyism that has been unleashed by Russiagate and what the journalist calls “Trump derangement syndrome” that leads liberals to buy into hysteria surrounding Russia so long as it serves an anti-Trump agenda. While Vanden Heuvel argues that the American left is making significant progress on domestic issues, even progressive leaders such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren “have to some extent bought into this new Cold War.”
[Transcript at link. -js]
The Trump administration is having a hard time selling U.S. allies on war adventures.
The U.S. leaned on German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month to conduct a naval maneuver in Russia’s backyard aimed at provoking President Vladimir Putin, according to three people familiar with the talks.
At a Feb. 16 meeting at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged Merkel to send German warships through a narrow channel between the Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia to show Putin that Western powers won’t surrender their access to those waters, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The German leader refused, they said, citing reservations from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. A spokesman for the chancellor declined to comment. ... Merkel had indicated she was willing, in coordination with the French, to send a convoy through the waterway as a one-time maneuver but Poroshenko said that wasn’t enough to solve his problem -- he wants to ensure the strait is open permanently, the people said. France also refused to take part, judging the idea as an unnecessary provocation, according to another official who declined to be identified.
The frustrated U.S. plan is a feature of the broader trans-Atlantic tension as President Donald Trump tries to cajole his European Union allies into replacing U.S. forces in hot spots in eastern Europe and the Middle East. Pence’s call in Munich for European forces to ensure stability of Syria after the U.S. withdrawal was also brushed off as were his demands for EU nations to follow the U.S. decision to abandon a hard-fought Iranian nuclear accord.
For years, President Donald Trump has complained that countries hosting American troops aren’t paying enough. Now he wants to get even, and then some.
Under White House direction, the administration is drawing up demands that Germany, Japan and eventually any other country hosting U.S. troops pay the full price of American soldiers deployed on their soil -- plus 50 percent or more for the privilege of hosting them, according to a dozen administration officials and people briefed on the matter.
In some cases, nations hosting American forces could be asked to pay five to six times as much as they do now under the “Cost Plus 50” formula.
Donald Trump would be “pretty disappointed” if North Korea launches a new rocket or carries out a missile test, national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday. Bolton spoke on ABC’s This Week, regarding reports based on imagery from commercial satellites analysed by nongovernmental groups which suggested Pyongyang was continuing work and had been doing so before Trump and Kim Jong-un’s summit in Vietnam last month. ...
On Friday, Trump told reporters his relationship with Kim was “a very good one” and said he would be “surprised in a negative way if he did anything that was not per our understanding”. ...
Bolton told ABC he was not aware of any contact between the US and North Korea since Vietnam, though it was “possible the South Koreans have spoken to North Korea”. Trump, he said, was “open” to a third summit, though “some time may have to go by”.
In comments on Instagram, the prime minister went on to say all citizens, including Arabs, had equal rights, but he referred to a deeply controversial law passed last year declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people. “Israel is not a state of all its citizens,” he wrote in response to criticism from an Israeli actor, Rotem Sela. “According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.
As the comments caused waves in Israel, Netanyahu again spoke of the issue at the start of a cabinet meeting. He called Israel a “Jewish, democratic state” with equal rights, but “the nation state not of all its citizens but only of the Jewish people”. Netanyahu has been accused of demonising Israeli Arabs, who make up about 17% of the population, in an attempt to boost rightwing turnout in elections due on 9 April.
Congress and state legislators are moving forward with privacy legislation that will largely end the laissez-faire regime that currently governs the American internet, and has enabled Facebook to become a $40 billion advertising juggernaut.
A bipartisan group of four senators are now ramping up their work behind the scenes, capitalizing on simmering congressional rage over multiple data breaches, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and Zuckerberg’s own performance in front of Congress last spring when he said users have “complete control” over their data. Some have even accused him of lying to Congress. ...
But that’s not the worst thing that could happen to Facebook: California implemented its own privacy law last summer, and newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a “data dividend” that users would be paid by the platforms for accessing their data. If the federal government doesn’t come up with a national law soon, Facebook and the rest of Silicon Valley could face a patchwork of state laws. ...
GOP senators also want to head off any more-progressive legislation coming out of the Democrat-controlled House. Many Democrats in the House want to link privacy with the antitrust issue and produce legislation that looks like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which forces tech companies to ask users for permission to sell their personal data to third parties. “The Senate is not interested in changing fundamentally how Google and Facebook do business,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “It’s unclear how far the House will go.”
Sick of Scammers? John Oliver Unveils Epic Robocall Operation to Give FCC a Taste of Surging Problem
On Sunday, HBO's John Oliver zeroed in once again on an injustice perpetrated on the American people and took direct action—this time focusing his attention on robocalls and the Trump administration's refusal to combat them.
Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" production team set up an automated message that was programmed to dial the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) every 90 minutes.
Donald Trump’s latest budget request, which demands billions of dollars for a border wall at the expense of social safety nets and environmental protections, was dismissed on Monday as “dead on arrival” and “breathtaking in its degree of cruelty”.
The president unveiled a 2020 plan that includes $8.6bn for a wall on the border with Mexico, signalling his intent to reignite a political fight that has already led to a record 35-day partial government shutdown. Trump’s budget would also increase defence spending while cutting domestic programmes by 5%, or $2.7tn over 10 years: higher than any administration in history. This is intended to curb the national debt, currently more than $22tn, a record level.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said: “The Trump administration’s latest budget proposal is a gut-punch to the American middle class and a handout to the wealthiest few and powerful special interests that would worsen income inequality. Its proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as numerous other middle-class programs, are devastating, but not surprising.”
President Trump on Monday will propose major spending cuts across a range of domestic government programs while seeking a large increase for the Pentagon, a budget plan that’s already encountering withering opposition from Democrats who control the House, as well as some Republicans.
The budget has little chance of becoming law because of bipartisan resistance to many of its elements, but it sets forth the White House’s vision ahead of what is expected to be a fierce battle over government spending later this year.
Even with deep spending cuts, the president’s plan would not balance the budget until the mid-2030s, two people briefed on the plan said, falling short of the 10-year time frame that Republicans have sought for years. ... Instead, Trump’s advisers say the budget would balance after 15 years because they presume that economic growth will continue at high levels and bring in more revenue, a prediction that many economists have said is not possible.
Still, the White House’s new 15-year deficit target illustrates the fiscal constraints of an agenda that prioritizes tax cuts and increased defense spending while simultaneously protecting big-ticket items like Medicare from any major changes.
Trump to Divert Up to $385 Million From Crucial Health Programs To Pay for 'Government-Sanctioned Child Abuse'
Alzheimer's patients, lower-income preschool children, and HIV and cancer patients are among the Americans whose needs may go unmet so that the Trump administration can afford to detain thousands of migrant children.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told Congress this week that he plans to divert $385 million from numerous healthcare programs to pay for detention centers across the country where more than 15,000 young undocumented immigrants are currently being held.
About $286 million will be taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and HHS's programs for children and families, according to The Hill. Programs including HIV prevention and Head Start are expected to be affected.
"The Trump administration is once again robbing vital health and human services initiatives in order to pay for their failed policies," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) Friday. DeLauro chairs an appropriations subcommittee in the House which deals with healthcare funding. "This $385 million reallocation takes money away from groundbreaking medical research into HIV/AIDS, cancer, mental health, as well as from Head Start, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and much more," the congresswoman added. "We cannot continue to spend taxpayer dollars on the President's manufactured crisis at the border, which is government-sanctioned child abuse."
Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who called this week for the break-up of America’s biggest tech companies, was challenged on her capitalist credentials on Sunday. The exchange offered a preview of how Democratic presidential candidates might handle Donald Trump’s campaign strategy of stoking fears about “socialism” in attacks on his challengers.
Asked on CBS’ Face the Nation if she might properly be described as a capitalist, Warren, a former Republican who has done pioneering academic work in the area of consumer debt, said: “Yeah.”
“I believe in markets,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “Markets that work. Markets that have a cop on the beat and have real rules and everybody follows them.”
Interviewer Ed O’Keefe followed up: “So if you get labeled as a socialist–”
“Well,” the senator replied, “it’s just wrong.”
It is unclear if the “socialist” charge will gain traction with voters in a negative way as the election approaches. In Gallup polling last year, 57% of Democrats said they held a positive view of socialism, compared with 47% who said the same for capitalism. It should also be noted that 6% of all poll respondents defined socialism as “being social”. There is no doubt, however, that Trump intends to paint his opponents red.
The Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro will not rule out direct payments to African Americans in reparation for the legacy of slavery – a stand that separates him from his 2020 rivals. “If under the constitution we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn’t you compensate people who actually were property,” the Obama-era housing secretary and former mayor of San Antonio told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. ...
“It’s interesting to me,” he said, “that when it comes to Medicare for All, healthcare, the response there has been, ‘We need to write a big check’. That when it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been, ‘We need to write a big check.’
“And so, if the issue is compensating the descendants of slaves, I don’t think that the argument about writing a big check ought to be the argument that you make, if you’re making an argument that a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff.”
He did not say that if elected he would push for direct compensation to descendants of slaves, saying instead he would appoint a commissioner or task force to make recommendations.
A senior Trump administration official has told Bloomberg News that the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its $2.3 billion budget slashed by about 70 percent, to $700 million, under President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request, which will be released on Monday.
Trump, who rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding the climate crisis, has repeatedly vowed to zero out federal spending on clean energy research and development (R&D). Trump proposed similarly dramatic cuts to EERE’s budget in both his fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019 proposals. ...
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in grants and other financial assistance for clean energy, has financed research into technologies ranging from electric vehicles to energy projects powered by ocean waves. It has been credited with financing research to help make the cost of wind power competitive with coal and cutting the costs of LED lighting.
Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have called for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, to be eliminated entirely, saying energy innovation is best left up to the private sector.
India Bans Plastics Waste Imports, While Fossil Fuel Plastics Pushers in US and China Ramp Up to Party On
India last week banned imports of plastics waste for recycling. This move will exacerbate the worldwide recycling crisis. Regular readers know that China in 2017 stopped importing plastics waste for recycling, diverting waste exports to other Asian countries, principally India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, which have found their recycling capacity overwhelmed – resulting in more illegal disposal, and fouling of oceans and other places (see Waste Watch: US Dumps Plastic Rubbish in Southeast Asia). ...
The countries that produce plastics waste have been unable to increase their domestic recycling capacity enough to meet their demand, and this failure has in turn collapsed prices for recyclables. Cities have slowed recycling programs or halted them completely (see this February article in the Guardian, ‘Moment of reckoning’: US cities burn recyclables after China bans imports) for some further details. ...
Fossil fuel plastics pushers are increasing plans to produce even more plastics. Note this is happening not just in the US, but also in China – a story well-told in this excellent DeSmogBlog post, New Warnings on Plastic’s Health Risks as Fracking Industry Promotes New ‘Plastics Belt’ Build-Out.
An excellent article, worth a read. Here's an excerpt:
Tim Gibbons of Missouri Rural Crisis Center, a support group for family farmers set up during the 1980s farm crisis, says the cycle of economic shocks has blended with government policies to create a “monopolisation of the livestock industry, where a few multinational corporations control a vast majority of the livestock”.
Gibbons explains: “They are vertically integrated, from animal genetics to grocery store. What they charge isn’t based upon what it costs to produce, and it’s not based on supply and demand, because they know what they need to make a profit. What they have done, through government support and taxpayer support, is to intentionally overproduce so that the price stays low, sometimes below the cost of production. That kicks their competition out of the market. Then they become the only player in town.
“Over time, it has extracted wealth and power from communities. We can see how that has impacted rural main streets. You can see the boarded-up storefronts. You can see the lack of economic opportunity.”
Gibbons says that corporations game the system by obtaining low-interest, federally guaranteed loans to build Cafos that then overproduce. But they know the government will buy up the surplus to stabilise prices.
“The system has been set up for the benefit of the factory farm corporations and their shareholders at the expense of family farmers, the real people, our environment, our food system,” he adds. “The thing that is really pervasive about it is that they control the rules of the game because they control the democratic process. It’s a blueprint. We’re paying for our own demise. It would be a different argument if it was just based upon inevitability or based on competition. But it’s not based upon competition: it’s based upon squelching competition.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
Article includes Chelsea's address at bottom if you wish to send her a letter and other information about her legal fund:
A Little Night Music
Robert Shaw - Austin City Limits 1978
Robert Shaw - Mobile & K.C. Line
Robert Shaw - 11:30 Saturday Night
Robert Shaw - People, People
Robert Shaw - Black Gal
Robert Shaw - The Clinton
Robert Shaw - She Used to Be My Baby (Ma Grinder #2)
Here I Come With My Dirty, Dirty Duckins On
An Evening with Robert Shaw: Barrelhouse Blues